humor

Author and producer behind Forbrydelsen kidnapped by BFSR terrorists

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Danish DR TV-series Forbrydelsen (The Killing) author and producer, Søren Sveistrup and Piv Bernth, have been kidnapped by a terrorist organization referring to themselves as BFSR (British Front of Subtitle Readers) saying they won’t release Sveistrup and Bernth until Forbrydelsen IV is filmed and aired. BFSR furthermore demands Forbrydelsen IV should consist of 20 episodes, with the original Guðrun and Guðrun jumper, – and with a lot of moving torches seeking in dark places.

DCI Tennison leads the police investigation from Scotland Yard. With Minister Jim Hacker giving priority to the case, Tennison is assisted by DC Anna Travis, Wycliffe, Taggart, Reid, Morse, Bergerac and the Lochdubh-based police officer Macbeth as well as Dempsey and Makepeace. Quite unconventionally the British police has requested the assistance of a civilian named Holmes. Also a middle-aged Belgian and an elderly British woman seem to be intimately involved in the investigation. After initial Fawlty search in Gallowshield, the police now believes the kidnapped persons are being held in a scarlet studio in Dartmoor. A butterfly collector, referred to as “The Street”, was apprehended, but now released.

BFSR states that unless DR begins filming Forbrydelsen IV, BFSR will start showing episodes of the failed DR crime series Rejseholdet (1983) to the two kidnapped victims. While Bernth is believed to be capable of withstanding this ordeal, it is generally thought that Sveistrup will not survive this IMDb 4.8 rated tv-series. Sofie Gråbøl states she won’t yield to the demands of BFSR, but Kenneth Brannagh has acknowledged his ability to step in at short notice and take over the part of Sarah Lund, with Emma Thompson taking the part of not-actually-dead (it was only a blank shot) Detective Inspector Jan Meyer.

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Error in the erratum

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Radioavsien

One usually needs to take care when writing corrections: An error in an erratum looks silly. For those with knowledge of Danish would note that a word in the title has a typo: “Radioavsien” should have been “Radioavisen”. Somehow the picture of the pig adds some humor to the typo.

Lone "The Adjectived" Aburas, The Second

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I suppose that highest aspiration of an author is to get a phone call early one morning from an English speaking person with a heavy Swedish accent. The second highest may be to become an adjective such as “Shakespearian”. Now young suburbian observer Lone Aburas (her last letter is not indicating genitive) has managed to become an adjective just after her second novel. Congratulation!

The novel is called Den svære toer, – The difficult second, i.e. second book.

Collective novel with modern social realism detailing depressing everyday life of suburbians. Not a winner? Well, the book is loaded with sufficient Danish humor and irony that we well manage. One blogger writes he has a difficulty in seeing the humor in the novel. Sorry for him. Lone Aburas clearly states that she uses irony and the use of meta-commentary was humorous. Even the title was humorous: “[…] I think it was funny […] it is mostly an ironic title […]”. The ironic meta-commentary in the beginning and the end has the clearest scoops in this direction. The end sets up tasks for the reader. The reader may, e.g., “analyze the begining of the novel” and find examples of were the author breaks the rules that she sets up. This is meant ironically, so the reader should not necessarily do that. However, the reader may already have analyzed the beginning while reading it and found out that it was ironic (the beginning). As the rules set up were meant ironic, it means that these rules were not really set up and we expect the rules to be broken, meaning that the meta-rule is that the rules are to be broken. (The obvious next step for me here would be to come up with some meta-humoristic irony in a comment to the meta-humoristic irony of Aburas. I will not do that though)

Humor with irony sits centrally in Danish popular art: Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, double entendre Barbie Girl of Aqua, humorous text of long-time popular Danish music group Shubidua (selling more records than the population of Denmark). Most best selling Danish film in Denmark in the last 40 years are comedies: Olsen Gang, Den eneste ene, Italiensk for begyndere and Klovn – the movie. Even Albert Speer-lover Lars Trier most popular work in Denmark is humorous.

But apart from the irony what does the novel wants? Not clear. Lone Aburas leaves her poor characters to their own destiny with divorce and a dog training course. In the Danish hit comedy Italian for beginning we also follow Copenhagen suburbians through a course. But this course in the Italian language ends successfully with a romantic trip to Italy while Lone Aburas dog training course ends with course participants being cheated for the course fee paid up front. Not nice.

On the negative side I also find that the novel lacks an index. The punctuation I find ok though.

Advices for Lone Aburas for her third novel? Well, more structure I would say. And action! Most modern literature involves one or possible a connected series of murders, – a case to solve. A revised second edition could, e.g., consider changing the police stop on page 126 with a dramatic car hunt. Also the car crash on page 134 could be described in detail. Another issue is what she herself acknowledge on page 137 with the words: “Actually I do not like to describe two humans having sex” which is a problem as she further writes “[…] you are not a real writer if you are not capable of writing about erotics”. She needs to work on that bit. Include murder and sex. Possible also international crime and the revolution in Egypt.

Danish computational humor (including the European Parliament)

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Last year in 2010 I looked a bit closer on Danish text mining. The text mining I have done so far has mostly been in English (see, e.g., Mining the posterior cingulate: Segregation between memory and pain components), so stop word lists and sentiment word lists are in English. I had done a bit text mining on fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling with yet little interesting results.

To have a bit of fun I started looking on Danish humor. Researchers have done humor text mining for some time now, e.g., Rada Mihalcea has written a few papers. One is Characterizing Humour: An Exploration of Features in Humorous Texts. The simple approach is to assemble a data set of jokes, e.g., one-liners and contrast it with a non-humorous data set using a machine learning classifier. Mihalcea used Reuter news, proverbs and “British National Corpus” sentences.

Following the Mihalcea approach I gathered a small data set of just 497 jokes. Mihalcea collected 16,000 one-liners! To contrast the joke I found Danish sentences from the European Parliament available in NLTK as well as sentences from The Ugly Duckling. I then used the naïve Bayes classifier in NLTK in a straightforward manner on the three classes of texts.

Mihalcea reports that among funny features are human-centric vocabulary (you, I, woman, man, etc.), negation, negative orientation (failure, illegal, etc.), profesional communities (those poor lawyers) and human “weakness” (stupidity, alcohol, steal, lie).

Running the “show most informative features” of NLTK I finds that some of the important words for jokes to be: mand (man), manden (the man), hjem (home), sidder (sits), laver (makes), ældre (older), hedder (is called), hvorfor (why), hus (house), pludselig (suddenly), gave (present), bor (lives), dør (dies), hvornår (when), tog (train/took), spørger (asks), hvem (who). Further down the list I find advokat (lawyer). “man” is human-centric, but why is “home” and “sits” prevalent in jokes?

Whats on the word list depends much on what you contrast with, e.g., du (you) and gik (went) appear as important words for the fairytale. For the European Parliament contrasted with jokes words such as hr (Mr.), Europa, fru (Ms.), denne (this), støtte (support), disse (these) and også (also) are important.

Mihalcea uses one-liners while I uses general jokes. Often jokes are formed as a question that is why I find “why” and “when” as important joke words. The jokes scoring high with the joke classifier are also mostly questions, some examples:

  • Hvorfor sømmer man låget fast på en kiste? (Why do they nail the lid on a coffin?)
  • Hvordan smider man en affaldscontainer væk? (How do you throw away a gabbage bin?)
  • Hvis man spiser pasta og antipasta – er man så stadig lige sulten? (If you eat pasta and antipasta – are you then still hungry?)

Non-question jokes examples are:

  • Godt: Hed udendørs sex. Dårligt: Du bliver anholdt. Værre: Af din mand. (Good: Hot outdoor sex. Bad: You get arrested. Worse: By your husbond)
  • Og så var der fragtskibet, der var lastet med yoyoer. Det sank 50 gange. (And then there was the story about the ship that carried yo-yos. It sank 50 times)

Both of these follow a joke scheme: “Good, bad, worse” or “And then there was the story about”.

Among jokes classified as not a joke is the following verbose account:

“Selv om man kun måtte køre 50 km/t gennem den lille by, kørte de fleste stærkere. Man satte skilte op med tekster som ‘legende børn’, ‘vis hensyn’, og ‘skole’, men intet hjalp. Lige indtil man satte et skilt op hvor der stod: ‘nudistlejr'”

translated to:

“Even though you were only allowed to drive 50 km/h through the small town, most drivers drove faster. They put up signs with the texts ‘playing childing’, ‘show consideration’ and ‘school’, but nothing helped. Only until they put a sign saying ‘nudist camp’.”

It is funny to look on the sentences from the European Parliament corpus that gets (erroneously) a relatively high probability for being a joke. Here are some daring jokes from the European Parliament picked from the top 40:

  • Den var meget lille (It was very small)
  • De 15 er åbenbart ikke nok (The 15 were apparently not enough)
  • Fagforeningerne kommer, industrien kommer (The union comes. The industry comes)
  • Det er der heller ingen, der kan forstå (That is something noone can understand)

Can Swedes be funny?

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Swedes

Danish folklore has it that Swedes are not funny. However, I find that this is not so. Examining Wikipedia I find that the Swedish satire category lists 9 Wikipedia articles. This should be compared to the Danish category on satire that lists 54 Wikipedia articles. So the Swedes has almost 20% as much humor as Danes. I think this high rate will come as a surprise to many Danes.

I do not agree with the people arguing that the number of articles should be normalized with the total number of pages on Wikipedia. The Swedish Wikipedia has 394’810 content pages equivalent to a satire rate on almost 23 ppm (parts per mil), while the Danish Wikipedia has 148’443 pages bringing the satire rate to 364 ppm. With these numbers Swedes has only 6% as much humor as Danes. I dont think that number is fair to the Swedes.